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Chelsea title defence that ‘never started’ now officially over as Conte sets new target

Title race over for Chelsea, as if it wasn’t before.

Chelsea lost to the fourth time this season in the Premier League. That’s not great, though it gets even worse when you realize that half of those losses have come against teams that were bottom or second-from-bottom at the time.

Certainly not a good way to go about a title defence, especially given Manchester City’s rampant form. Quite tellingly, City will be looking to break Chelsea’s record from last season by winning their 14th league match in a row in tomorrow’s Manchester Derby.

Antonio Conte was left to reflect on this, and his team’s effort, after the 1-0 loss to West Ham.

“To speak about the title race after a defeat is a bit strange, especially if this is the fourth defeat of the season, after 16 games. When you have that it’s impossible to think you are in the race, my experience tells me if you want to stay in the race in the first part of the season you can lose once or twice.

“After 16 games, if you lose four it means you never got started. We started with a defeat at home to Burnley. We lost another game, against Man City, but we have reasons to justify that. Then when you lose to Crystal Palace, who were bottom, and West Ham, who are in a bad position, you can lose points in these games but it means you are not in the title race.”

In fairness, the title race looked rather hopeful already given City’s aforementioned form, but now we can at least set our sights and expectations more realistically. There are 22 games left this season, and top four is nowhere near assured. There are three knockout competition trophies up for grabs, too, and winning a Cup is not something Conte’s ever done as a head coach, so there’s that avenue for improvement available to us as well.

Chelsea will obviously have to play better than today however to accomplish any of those goals.

“I think today we lost the game against West Ham and it was very difficult because our start was bad, we conceded the goal and it was difficult to come back. I saw their game against Man City, when City attacked for the whole game against 11 defenders but they found a way to score, we created chances but didn’t take them and so we are talking about a defeat. Many players were tired which is normal when you play every three days.

“Today our ideas were not so clear and in the final pass we made a lot of mistakes. Despite that we created chances to score but we didn’t take them. When you shoot 19 times in a game it means you attacked, but we can do better.”

-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC

Three days from now, away to Huddersfield, we must.

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